Picayune Students Prepare Gift Baskets For Soldiers' Families

Some Picayune High students are doing what they can to make sure some soliders' families have a Merry Christmas.

The students enlisted their classmates and area businesses for what they call "Hearts to Heroes" to show their appreciation to the families and soldiers of the 890th engineering battalion. Each student who sorted toys, or prepared a gift basket in Miss Porter's oral communications class has a personal reason for wanting to share with the soldier families.

"I've always had my dad here for me. I've never had to experience him going away for a long period of time," 10th grade student Lauren Smith said.

Alex Riser, also in 10th grade, echoed her sentiments.

"My grandfather, he was in the military, and he received a purple heart. My dad knew what it was like to actually not have a father around at Christmas at some point in his life. It really touches you in the inside and you want to take part in it."

Students first wanted to send holiday gifts overseas, directly to the soldiers. When they asked Congressman Gene Taylor how to do that, they learned something that changed the focus of their mission.

"Congressman Gene Taylor said that he had visited with many soldiers in Iraq and Washington and their number one concern... was their children at Christmas time, not themselves," Instructor Donna Porter said.

So students raised nearly $500 to buy toys for 48 children and 21 families. Area businesses donated the items for the gift baskets.

In addition to gift baskets each family will receive their own purple heart - purple heart cookies courtesy of Paul's Pastry.

"Our goal was just to be able to show them how much we care and that the people in their town were just watching out for them, and hoping we could brighten their holidays," 10th grade student Alison Mitchell said.

by Al Showers